Malaysia: Long dry spell may hit Sabah and Sarawak

RUBEN SARIO The Star 17 Feb 16;

KOTA KINABALU: A climatologist has warned of an El Nino phenomenon that could induce a drought over northern Borneo in the next three months.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) Climatology and Oceano­graphy Prof Dr Fredolin Tangang (pic) said all signs pointed to a prolonged dry spell in Sabah and northern Sarawak, like what happened between 1997 and 1998.

He said that according to a forecast by the Apec Climate Centre in Busan, South Korea, there was more than an 80% likelihood of below normal rainfall in northern Borneo in the expected period.

Dr Fredolin said the El Nino phenomenon had already resulted in a 3°C above average rise in surface temperatures of the Pacific Ocean.

A 5°C increase in the Pacific Ocean two decades ago resulted in widespread drought in Sabah, causing massive forest and bush fires as well as crop failures.

The El Nino pheno­menon is driven by warm surface water in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Its strength is measured by how much higher temperatures are over three-month averages.

Dr Fredolin, who served as vice-chairman of the United Nations Panel of Climate Change from 2008 until last year, said reports of rivers drying up in northern Sarawak were among the signs that the El Nino-induced drought had set in.

“There has already been reduced rainfall in northern Borneo since this month, with the average in Kota Kinabalu being 85.4mm.

“However, El Nino exacerbates the situation because it reduces the rainfall further.

“In 1998, rainfall between February and April was only 4.7mm or 5% of the average amount,” he said.

Noting that the El Nino phenomenon began in the middle of last year, Dr Fredolin said it was at its decaying stage.

“But it is at this stage that El Nino exerts its strongest effect over northern Borneo,” he said, adding that the next few months would be critical for Sabah and northern Sarawak in terms of conservation of water resources, especially in the rural areas.

“The authorities will have to be on the lookout for open burning and forest fires. It will also be hotter during the drought, with temperatures increasing by as much as 2°C above normal in the coming months,” he said.

Dr Fredolin said floods and wet weather in southern parts of Sarawak and in Kalimantan, Indo­nesia, was also consistent with the typical effect of El Nino in that region from January to April.

Asked about the rain over parts of Sabah’s west coast during the weekend amid El Nino, he said these were due to cold surges associated with the strengthening of the “Siberian High”.

“Due to the high pressure over Siberia, pulses of cold or very cold dry air in the northern hemisphere blow south, collecting moisture over South China and transporting them to our region.

“But these cold surges are temporary,” Dr Fredolin added.

He said El Nino was not expected to have a pronounced effect in the peninsula, based on the impact of the phenomenon in the past years.

There was only a 50% likelihood of a drought in the peninsula, with the northern region being more prone, he said.

It’s about to get hotter in the north of peninsula
JUSTIN ZACK The Star 17 Feb 16;

PETALING JAYA: Hot weather is to be expected in the coming week in Malaysia.

Northern Perak, Penang, Kedah, Perlis and Kelantan can expect a dry spell in the coming days courtesy of the El Nino phenomenon.

“In the next few days, we are expecting temperatures in those states to be above their average, between 0.5°C and 2°C. It will be hot,” said Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) deputy director-general Alui Bahari.

He added that the average temperature varied between the states and advised the public to keep updated via

Previously, he said there was a possibility of drought in those states.

However, he said the Klang Valley area would enjoy some respite with isolated rain expected there.

He also noted that this year’s Chinese New Year was not as hot as last year due to the spate of rain.

Previously, an unverified news report went viral online predicting that Malaysia would experience cold weather during the Chinese New Year period.

The same report also claimed that the temperature in some parts of peninsular Malaysia would drop to as low as 16°C due to the wind change.

However, both MetMalaysia and reports from the media debunked the report.

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